When dealing with PR, it can be tricky to balance honesty and integrity with the desire to make your client stand out. All publicists or PR firms want their clients to be perceived in the best way possible, but they must also represent their products or services accurately in order to protect their reputation in the small and talkative world of PR.
While reading PRNewsBlog, I stumbled upon an article entitled Grand Theft PR: Bogus Reviews Catches FTC Attention and Blights PR Image. While looking further into this “grand theft,” I read about a PR firm called Reverb Communication who found themselves in serious trouble with the Federal Trade Commission this August for faulty PR. According to the article, the firm had their interns go onto Apple’s iTunes and post rave reviews about a client’s video game.
While Reverb is not the first company to have done things like this in an attempt to boost their client’s sales, these types of actions put a damper on the reputation of PR firms across the board. All PR enthusiasts need to remember ethics and integrity before dealing with the resources of social media and online anonymity.
In response to this incident, the Federal Trade Commission updated an act that states if a publicist is to print information about a product or client on the internet or if they are to post a review, that they are forced to provide information and results as evidentiary support to their claim. The act had not been updated since 1980. The act also states that any tangible benefits, from salary to employment, must be disclosed if an employee is posting any comments about a particular product. The FTC is taking serious steps to make sure that PR maintains a strong ethical code.
While it might seem like the fast and easy option to try to boost a client’s credibility, please be aware that unethical actions jeopardize your own credibility and the credibility of all PR practitioners.